Animal rights protests as elephant escapes circus


Animal rights activists plan to picket a circus responsible for allowing an elephant to run free outside a busy Cork shopping centre. “Baby”, a 40-year-old Indian elephant, became agitated when handlers tried to hose it down, its owners said.

The female elephant paced through a retail car park in Blackpool before charging through a busy junction towards a shopping centre. Its minders chased and brought it to a halt minutes later. It was returned to the Courtney Brothers circus at the Sunbeam site in Blackpool.

Animal Rights Action Network, which is campaigning for a ban on animal circus acts, said the incident could have led to a trampling causing serious injury or death.

“This should be seen as a clear warning that it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or injured,” network spokesman John Carmody said. “These are animals that belong in the wild but are kept in cramped vans and wagons for transportation and then made to perform ridiculous, degrading acts.”

Spokesman for Courtney Brothers circus Jim Conway said the incident would not be repeated. “We had the elephants out to wash them down in the warm weather,” he said. “Now that we know how [Baby] will react, we will approach hosing her down in a different way and get her used to it slowly.”

On the welfare issue, he said the circus animals were housed in proper facilities – in heated tents – and fed adequately.

“Apart from common decency, it would be stupidity to abuse the animals that support our livelihoods,” Mr Conway said.